Fenway Park slowly emptied out as the game dragged Wednesday night. By the bottom of the 15th inning, the Red Sox and those hardy fans remaining were looking for a hero.
It proved to be Stephen Drew. His two-out walkoff single gave the Red Sox a 5-4 victory against the Seattle Mariners.
It was the longest game of the season for the Sox and their 10th walkoff victory, the most since 1996.
“It’s an exciting win and hopefully we can keep this thing going,” said Drew, who seemed to hug every player in uniform on his way back to the clubhouse.
The Sox have won four of their last five games and are back in first place by a half-game as Tampa Bay lost, 7-0, against Arizona at home.
Dustin Pedroia drew a walk off Lucas Luetge (0-2) to start the winning rally. He took second on a ground out before Seattle intentionally walked Mike Napoli. Jarrod Saltalamacchia struck out before Jonny Gomes walked to load the bases.
Drew then singled to right field and the Red Sox celebrated.
“Kind of seeing the angle off the bat, I knew it would stay fair,” said Drew, who lined a sinker down the line. “The guys in front of me all had great at-bats.”
Rookie Drake Britton pitched two scoreless innings for his first major league win. Britton has thrown eight scoreless innings since being called up from Triple A Pawtucket.
“It was just an amazing feeling to be out there on the mound,” he said.
Britton allowed two singles in the 15th inning. With one out, Michael Saunders lined to left. Gomes made a diving catch, then ran in and stepped on second for the unassisted double play as Raul Ibanez had taken off.
“It was a do-or-die situation,” Gomes said. “I was pretty sure the ball was going to come my way.”
Once Gomes made the catch, he saw Ibanez was around third. So he completed the double play on his own.
“It definitely was on purpose. To tell you the truth I’ve been waiting years to do that,” he said. “Never had one and never seen one. That’s one I’m glad I’ve got on my résumé.”
The Sox had a chance to win the game in the 14th inning. Brandon Snyder pinch hit and doubled to the gap in left. Jacoby Ellsbury bunted him to third base.
Snyder tried to score when Shane Victorino flied to center but was thrown out by Saunders to end the inning.
The Red Sox’ bullpen held Seattle down for seven innings after Junichi Tazawa allowed a tying home run by Kyle Seager in the eighth.
Koji Uehara threw two perfect innings. In 14 July appearances, Uehara allowed one unearned run on five hits with one walk and 21 strikeouts over 15⅓ innings.
In his last 24 appearances, Uehara has given up one earned run in 25 innings and struck out 36.
Matt Thornton allowed two hits, but in the 11th was bailed out when Ellsbury ended the inning with a sliding catch to steal an RBI single from Dustin Ackley.
Craig Breslow pitched two scoreless innings. He left two runners stranded in the 12th inning and a runner on second in the 13th.
“Just an outstanding job on their part,” manager John Farrell said. “Finally we were able to push one across after quite a drought.”
The Sox, 5-1 against Seattle this season, will send Ryan Dempster against Felix Hernandez in the series finale Thursday. Hernandez has won his last three starts against the Red Sox.
The Red Sox hit Seattle starter Hisashi Iwakuma hard at Safeco Field July 9. He allowed six runs on eight hits in a game the Sox won, 11-8.
Wednesday night’s game started much the same way. Ellsbury, Victorino and Pedroia had singles to load the bases with no outs for David Ortiz.
One of the hottest hitters in the majors tapped the ball back to the mound. Iwakuma scooped the ball toward the plate to start a 1-2-3 double play.
Napoli walked to keep the inning alive before Saltalamacchia lined to first base.
Brad Miller singled and scored on Seager’s double in the fourth inning as the Mariners took a 1-0 lead off John Lackey
The Sox went up, 2-1, in the fifth inning thanks to some poor defense by the Mariners.
Brock Holt, called up from Triple A Pawtucket to start at third base after Jose Iglesias was traded, doubled to right field. It was his first extra-base hit with the Sox.
Ellsbury followed with a popup to center field that Ackley dropped. Holt took third and scored when Victorino grounded toward second and Nick Franklin booted the ball.
Ellsbury scored when Pedroia grounded into a force. Iwakuma struck out Ortiz and Napoli to end the inning.
Seattle took the lead back with two runs in the sixth inning.
No. 9 hitter Humberto Quintero, a catcher released by the Phillies and signed by the Mariners Friday, singled to start the inning. Lackey then walked Miller.
With one out, Seager singled to right field to load the bases. Kendry Morales tied the game with a sacrifice fly to left. Ibanez then singled to right to drive in the go-ahead run.
Ibanez was 5 for 29 with 15 strikeouts and no RBIs since the All-Star break before that single.
Trailing, 3-2, the Sox got a leadoff single from Saltalamacchia in the bottom of the inning. Drew then walked with one out.
Holt grounded to first base. Seattle bench Robby Thompson, who is managing the team while manager Eric Wedge recovers from a mild stroke, went to lefthander Oliver Perez to face Ellsbury.
Perez needed only four pitches to strike out Ellsbury and end the inning. That left the Sox 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position.
Perez was not so nifty in the seventh inning. Victorino singled before Pedroia drove a misplaced sinker over everything in left field for his eighth home run.
That gave Lackey a 4-3 lead and his night was done after 95 pitches. Lackey allowed three runs on eight hits with one walk and six strikeouts. The righthander had allowed nine runs over 12⅔ innings in his previous two starts but was sharper Wednesday in his first appearance against Seattle in nearly two years.
The lead did not last long. Tazawa got one out in the eighth inning before Seager homered into the Red Sox bullpen. It was his 17th of the season.Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.